Silvery sea life caught in wirework catch collector's eye

Terry and Kim Kovel
Cowles Syndicate

Collectors and makers alike know that there are many ways to decorate silver. It can have an engraved design or monogram. It can be pierced or reticulated with lace-like cutouts. A textured design may be hammered, gadrooned, repousse or made with another technique. Some of the most elaborate and complex decorations on silver are applied; that is, made separately and then attached to the silver piece. Applied pieces may be functional, like handles or finials, or strictly decorative. Three-dimensional figures, especially natural elements, human figures or mythological creatures, are popular.

Three-dimensional silver figures of animals and wildlife are often seen on elaborate silver pieces. This bowl takes a slightly different approach, with figures of sea animals attached to a wire net.

This Italian silver plate bowl was listed as the "Sealife bowl" at a Rago auction, where it sold for $1,188. Its design is more complex than a typical decorative silver bowl; instead of being applied directly onto the bowl, the three-dimensional silver sea creatures are "caught" in a wirework net attached to the rim.

Another feature of this bowl, its gilt enameled interior, may serve a purpose besides decoration. As any collector knows, silver is prone to tarnish, especially when exposed to substances like salty, acidic or sulfurous foods. Some tableware is coated with gold or enamel on the interior, which protects the silver as well as adding decorative value.

Question: I bought some toys at an estate sale. One is a 4 1/2-inch by 2 1/4-inch box that contains six smaller boxes that form puzzles. The boxes can be turned to make two different pictures. Each of the smaller boxes contains a tiny bisque doll. I would like to know more about these tiny dolls in puzzle boxes.

Answer: We've seen a set like this marked "made in Japan," which means it was imported into the United States. The 2-inch dolls are painted wearing various costumes. The set was probably made in the 1930s. It's listed for $125 but hasn't sold yet, so the price is probably too high.

Q: We received a hexagonal-shape porcelain pitcher as a gift 56 years ago and haven't been able to find anything about it. The bottom is marked with a gold leaf, the name "Beutlich" and a round mark with the words "Handpainted China" in a double ring around "Pickard" with the letters "W" above and "A" below. Can you tell us the maker, age and possible value of the pitcher?

A: Your pitcher was made by Pickard China, a company founded by Wilder Austin Pickard in Edgerton, Wisconsin, in 1893. The company began as a china decorating company, using blanks imported from Europe. Pickard China moved to Chicago in 1897, and then to Antioch, Illinois, in 1930. The company began making porcelain, as well as decorating it, in 1937. The company is still in business, run by members of the family. Variations of this round mark were used from 1898 to 1919, which means your pitcher was made in Europe and decorated by Pickard in Chicago. The color of the circular mark helps date it. You can find marks on the Pickard China Collectors Club website, Anton Berthold Beutlich was the Pickard china decorator who decorated your pitcher. Value of your pitcher depends on the size, decoration and artist. Hexagonal pitchers have sold for $270 to $530 recently.

Q: We have a unique "bottle bat," a number 125 Louisville Slugger made by Hillerich & Bradsby Co. It was used exclusively by Henry Knight (Heini) Groh from 1916 to the 1920s. Considering its age, it is in good condition. What do you think it's worth?

A: Henry Knight (Heini) Groh (1889-1968) played on three different major league teams and played in five World Series, but he may be best known for his custom-made bottle-shaped bat. He started with the New York Giants in 1912. Since he was smaller than most major league players, his manager suggested he have a bat made with a thicker barrel so he could get more power in his swing. His custom-made "bottle bat," with a thick handle tapering to a thinner handle, resembled the shape of a milk bottle. It was made by J.F. Hillerich & Son, which registered the "Louisville Slugger" trademark in 1894. Groh was traded to the Cincinnati Reds in 1913, was traded back to the New York Giants in 1921, and ended his career as a free agent with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1927. The number "125" on the bat refers to the grade of wood used. It's the highest grade, reserved for professional baseball players. Groh's bottle bats have sold at auctions for several hundred dollars or more. Contact an auction that sells baseball and other sports memorabilia. They will help you authenticate the bat and determine current value. One of Groh's bottle bats sold for $4,145 about two years ago.

TIP: Be sure to remove salt and pepper from shakers and dishes after use. Wash, then store.

Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer readers' questions sent to the column. Send a letter with one question describing the size, material (glass, pottery) and what you know about the item. Include only two pictures, the object and a closeup of any marks or damage. Be sure your name and return address are included. By sending a question, you give full permission for use in any Kovel product. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We do not guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. Questions that are answered will appear in Kovels Publications. Write to Kovels, Farm Forum, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803 or email us at